the charles river revisited

EPA seal

As I promised in this post, I looked at some other rivers in Mass and elsewhere to see if the Charles’ rating of B++ should be considered bad or good. Here’s what I found.

The EPA puts out a survey every two years (I only found the one from 2004 here) and here’s the executive summary.

In 2004, states reported that about 44% of assessed stream miles, 64% of assessed lake acres, and 30% of assessed bay and estuarine square miles were not clean enough to support uses such as fishing and swimming. Less than 30% of U.S. waters were assessed by the states for this report. Leading causes of impairment included pathogens, mercury, nutrients, and organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen. Top sources of impairment included atmospheric deposition, agriculture, hydrologic modifications, and unknown or unspecified sources.

So, according to this, the Charles doesn’t look too bad. It, like most rivers, is swimmable. That said, only 16% of total river mileage was assessed. So, I’m not sure then if this over or underestimates pollution in our rivers. I’m guessing that it overestimates how many river miles are polluted because studies are probably carried out where there is suspected pollution. If this guess is right, then it’s not saying much that after a decade of environmental consciousness, the Charles is now swimmable.


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